Jim Simon introduces the ShieldMaster!
by Rik Offenberger
Jim Simon has a new hero, ShieldMaster and he looks surprisingly similar to a well-known hero created by his father, the legendary Joe Simon. We talked to Jim Simon, as well as his partners at Organic Comix, publisher and artist Reed Man plus writer Jean Depelley about the debut of ShieldMaster as well as the other Simonverse heroes published by Organic Comix.
First Comics News: Visually ShieldMaster looks like Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Lancelot Strong. Is the only similarity the costume?
Jean Depelley: Well, I can’t tell you what’s to happen in the book, but let’s say that ShieldMaster is definitely not Lancelot Strong…
Reed Man: They’re two different characters.
Jim Simon: They are different concepts.
1st: Who is ShieldMaster?
Depelley: As far as the story is concerned, there was a prior ShieldMaster who was a hero from another plane of reality, a place named Shield World, that you can reach through black holes… He’s the leader of a pack, the Shield Heroes, whose mission was to protect their world and their Queen… But their place was invaded by Annihilatron, a powerful conqueror, and they lost a desperate fight! And today, an American kid discovers ShieldMaster‘s costume and will carry on the fighting… on Earth!
Man: As far as the character’s design is concerned, ShieldMaster’s design is a creation by Joe Simon, which I am fortunate to draw! Jim developed the overall story concept.
Simon: The main character is ShieldMaster. The formal series name is “ShieldMaster, Protector of the Heroes.” The kid, as Jean refers to him, well, actually he’s really a teenager on that awkward brink of having to decide to stay a kid or become an adult, with all the responsibilities that come with being grown up. We’ve all experienced that period in our lives, haven’t we? As Jean correctly says, the “kid” discovers the original ShieldMaster’s costume but there’s quite a bit more to the concept than discovering the costume. Let’s just say the costume is not the most important part of this though it certainly plays an important role, especially towards the end of the story. I created the “ShieldMaster, Protector of the Heroes” concept, wrote a story which Joe liked – and that surprised me somewhat because Joe is very critical. Joe knows comics and he saw the possibilities. Thus, he was kind enough to develop the prototype art. By the way, a short video was made some years back and the art designs were incorporated into the video.
Depelley: The original ShieldMaster was the absolute warrior on his world. His job was quiet easy up until Annihilatron’s arrival… Jess Stevens, the kid impersonating the Hero on Earth, has to show his worth with his friends in his fight against the conqueror, to protect Earth and his family.
Simon: Yes, it is very much Jess’s destiny to take over the role of the original ShieldMaster although he is reluctant at first, conflicted. But there is something special about Jess, which makes him the chosen one to become the new ShieldMaster. There is certainly an element of destiny versus free will here.
1st: ShieldMaster isn’t alone, there is a whole legion of Shield heroes, Master Shield, Stealth Shield, Warrior Shield, Navigator Shield and American Shield. Is this a team comic?
Depelley: Yes, partly. There were formerly five Shield Heroes in the original pitch, not including ShieldMaster. But we eventually decided to remove two of them to better concentrate on our cast of characters. So, Master Shield and American Shield were dropped… at least for now.
Man: … and the three remaining Shield Heroes are commanded by ShieldMaster who we focus on. He’s the hero of the story, a real Alpha Male!
Simon: Yes, both Jean and Reed are right, however, Master Shield does play an important role. The thing is, Master Shield is not one of the actual heroes. As for American Shield, well, all I can say is that you can never keep a good hero down forever.
1st: What is the purpose of the team?
Man: The kid gang was chosen by the former Shield Heroes to protect Earth and Shield World from the menace of Annihilatron.
Depelley: The kids also have to live with their problems, being normal 21th century kids, as well as survive their deadly mission.
Depelley: So far, it is a 44-page graphic novel. The story is complete in one book. But Jim and I have already discussed future adventures for the team… Hope we’ll meet success to continue with ShieldMaster!
Man: Yes! It’s great to work on such a group characters. Hope there will be more!
1st: Jim, you are writing the series?
Simon: Well, as I mentioned earlier I came up with the whole ShieldMaster, Protector of the Shields concept on my own. I wrote a couple of pitches and I also wrote the full script for the short video I mentioned earlier. I signed an agreement to be represented by Endeavor Talent Agency at one point and came up with a number of other concepts as well, not just ShieldMaster. Web episodes were starting to take off and ShieldMaster was in the running then the dot com burst came and interest in producing major webisodes pretty much came to an end.
Depelley: Jim wrote a comic book ShieldMaster pitch that I developed into the 44-page full script. Along the process, Jim supplied the story with powerful ideas and helped in directing the characters.
1st: Are you writing it in French?
Depelley: The full script was written in French, from my correspondence with Jim. Once the book is laid out and everybody is happy with it, I will translate the text in to English and Jim will polish the dialogues.
Simon: Yes, Jean is physically writing the French script and we discussed it. I do not know the French language, unfortunately, except for some classes I took way back in high school. It is an interesting experiment working this way. You should know that Jean has also been involved in movie writing.
1st: Jean, you are writing the comic in French and, Reed is handling the art?
Man: Jean paced the story as a full script for me. It’ s much quicker and still a lot of fun…
Depelley: Yes, and you’re free to change whatever might bother you in it!
1st: Some of the promotional art has images drawn by Joe Simon, will some of his art be in the comic?
Simon: I would like that, as long as it doesn’t interrupt the story. Joe has a lot of fans worldwide, of course, and anything to help sales is fine with me as long as we do not lose the concept I have envisioned for the series.
Depelley: Joe provided the first drawing, which has been used, along with Reed’s art, for the promotional print we’re selling with the subscription.
Man: We’ll try to use as many inventory art by Joe as possible. That’s the intention. Jim will supply me with them.
1st: How did ShieldMaster end up at Organic Comix?
Man: Organic Comix contacted the Simon Studio three years ago to reprint a classic Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Fly episode into our Strange magazine. Once the contact was established, I proposed to produce one original story of Joe’s Spiderman, which Jean ended up co-writing with me. Then, Jim proposed us a more important project, called ShieldMaster… And we were very glad to make the deal!
Depelley: Working with a living legend as Joe is a dream come true!
Simon: It was kind of funny the way it came about, the relationship with Organic Comix. They were going to do a version of Joe Simon’s Adventures of the Fly and when Joe heard about it he got worked up and shot off some emails to put a stop to the project. Then he saw the work of Reed Man and Joe was blown away by Reed’s art. Organic Comix has been very professional. I proposed ShieldMaster to them because I too feel Reed has a unique art style, very professional but different from what we are used to seeing here in the States. I think both Reed and Jean grasped the concept of ShieldMaster fairly well. I did not want the character or story to be gritty and overly violent which seems to be the trend here in the States.
1st: Didn’t the Joe Simon’s Fly and original Spiderman appear in Strange #9, along with the first published appearance of ShieldMaster?
Man: The Fly episode by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby was published in Strange #6bis (along with an article about Spider-man’s origin). Then, the original Spiderman story appeared in Strange #9, also featuring Joe’s Fly and some other characters. And in #10, a 2-page ShieldMaster teaser was published to promote the subscription.
1st: From 1976 to 1989, “Mon Journal” published reprints of the Fly comics in France as Le Mosquito. When you brought the Fly back to a French audience, why did you bring him back as the Fly instead of Le Mosquito?
Man: The Fly is the original name and it’s much better!
Depelley: Besides, Le Mosquito was not that popular in this country… It was published in cheap pocket-sized black and white magazines. Due to the smaller format, lots of touch-ups were made, that definitely ruined Joe & Jack’s art…
1st: How have the French fans reacted so far to the return of the Fly, Spiderman and the new ShieldMaster?
Man: French fans are enthusiastic about it! We sold dozens of prints so far and it’s only the beginning.
1st: You just got back from the Angoulême Comic Con. For fans in America, how big is the Angoulême convention?
Man: Simply said, it is the largest Comic Convention in the world, after San Diego. At least, it’s the largest in Europe… It is where the contracts are signed and the deals are made…
Depelley: It’s very crowded too. Lots of fans around! Great fun!
1st: How well was ShieldMaster received at Angoulême?
Man: Very well so far!
Depelley: We had many questions concerning this book to come.
Simon: I am hoping we can get it shown at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con. I think it would be fantastic if we have an English-language publisher lined up by then so we can have it at San Diego in both French and English!
1st: Isn’t it a little unusual of a character with a very patriotic American costume to debut in France?
Depelley: Well, I don’t know… We French people really enjoy your Captain America. I think we share the same values… Despite, our flag has exactly the same colors! Would you believe it!
Man: Anyway, ShieldMaster’s original costume by Joe has a very strong visual impact. A real pleasure for an artist!
Simon: Yes, and I just want to mention that ShieldMaster is not a patriotic, flag-waving character, another Captain America although I am proud, extremely proud of Captain America and of being an American myself . The costume colors are not important. As Jean says, the costume colors are not exclusively American—the French flag has the same colors, perhaps other countries’s flags also. There is no patriotic theme associated with ShieldMaster.
1st: For American Fans not familiar with Organic Comix, what type of comics do you publish?
Man: We have been producing mainstream and underground comics for the last 20 years now. It started with a mag called “Reptile“, publishing French Star Artists such as Arnon, Brun and others… Now we’re publishing “Strange“, the most famous super-hero magazine in this country. We also produced a couple of graphic novels… albums as they are called in France…
Simon: Organic Comix also published Jack Kirby works, and a graphic novel written by Stan Lee.
1st: How can fans in the US order copies of the comic?
Man: Very simply by ordering the book on our website, at Organic-Comix.fr with Paypal. The book will be available in May, but you can already subscribe and get a free limited print. You’re welcome, folks!
1st: If retailers want to order copies for their stores, who would they contact?
Man: They should contact Guy Buée, Organic’s sales director or me directly. Anyway, we’ll have a US publisher very soon…
1st: Is there any kind of supplement for English speaking fans who may not be able to read French?
Man: ShieldMaster will have its US edition, more or less at the same time as the French one…
Depelley: Hopefully, American fans won’t have to wait for too long…
Simon: I can also be reached at SimonComics.com